Listening to Beethoven #71 – Prelude and Fugue in F major

Commemorative medal for Ludwig van Beethoven, 1927 – silver medal based on a design by Karl Goetz © Beethoven-Haus Bonn

Prelude and fugue in F major, Hess 30 for string quartet (1794-5, Beethoven aged 24)

Dedication not known
Duration 6′

Listen

Background and Critical Reception

Here we have more from the pen of Beethoven via the careful scrutiny of Johann Georg Albrechtsberger. This is another more substantial piece suggesting he has reached the required standard of counterpoint writing and that his teacher is now encouraging him to apply it to a bigger scale.

Thoughts

Beethoven must have studied the organ works of J.S. Bach at some point while under Albrechtsberger – at least, that is the natural conclusion of thought while enjoying the busy, breezy prelude to this pair of movements. The music bustles along happily, each of the four instruments interacting closely but with the whole piece in mind.

The fugue is equally upright, Beethoven’s confidence in his part writing clear for all to hear. The main subject is bold and colourful, and dominates proceedings – but there is plenty going on behind the scenes, the accompaniment full of references to the main tune.

Recordings used

Fine Arts Quartet (Naxos)

Endellion Quartet (Deutsche Grammophon)

The Fine Arts Quartet give a clearly voiced account of the Prelude, with plenty of gusto – which they also apply to the Fugue. Their new Naxos recording is brightly lit, more so than the Endellion Quartet, who are a little bit more relaxed at the start of the Prelude, allowing the energy to build over a greater span.

Spotify links

Fine Arts Quartet

Endellion Quartet

You can chart the Arcana Beethoven playlist as it grows, with one recommended version of each piece we listen to. Catch up here!

Also written in 1795 Friedrich Witt Horn Concerto in E flat major

Next up Prelude and Fugue in C major Hess 31

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